The Inspiring Hymns of an Invalid

Posted by: LauraLoo415 in Illness

Tagged in: purpose , overcomer , hope , faith

  Charlotte Elliott (1789- 1871), famous hymn writer, was thought of as one of the physically most beautiful woman most had ever seen, with a voice of wonder and the mind of a literary genius. But on the inside her health was failing, leaving her an invalid for most of her life, and her spirit was weakening without the grace of a Saviour. Read these two accounts written by close acquaintances of Elliott's as they describe her conversion and the details behind her most famous verse "Just As I Am, Without One Plea".


Christopher Knapp's Account:

         Miss Elliott's father was a godly man at whose house the servants of Christ were often entertained. It was through a visit of one of these, Dr Cesar Malan, of Geneva, that Charlotte was converted and later wrote her celebrated hymn, "Just as I am". The story is as follows:

         One evening, as they sat conversing, the servant of God [Dr. Malan] turned the subject to our personal relation with God, and asked Charlotte if she knew herself to be really a Christian. She was in poor health and often harassed with severe pain, which tended to make her irritable. A severe illness had left her a permanent invalid. She resented the question thus pointedly put, and petulantly answered that religion was a matter she did not wish to discuss. Dr. Malan replied in his usual kind manner, that he would not pursue a subject that displeased her, but would pray that she might give her heart to Christ, and employ in His service the talents with which He had gifted her.

         It seems that the Holy Spirit used her abrupt and almost rude conduct towards God's servant to show her what depths of pride and alienation from God were in her heart. After several days of spiritual misery, she apologized for her unbecoming conduct, and confessed that his question had troubled her greatly.

         "I am miserable" she said, "I want to be saved. I want to come to Jesus; but I don't know how."

         "Why not come just as you are?" answered Malan. "You have only to come to Him just as you are."

         Little did Malan think that his simple reply would be repeated in song by the whole Christian world! Further conversation followed, and this good man was enabled to make perfectly clear to the once proud but now penitent young lady God's simple way of salvation through Christ; that on the ground of His shed blood for us, all who from their heart believe are accepted of God. Miss Charlotte came as a sinner to Christ, and remembering this event wrote the hymn that has made her name famous everywhere.

         Miss Elliott was possessed of rare literary gifts and when in the year 1836 she assumed the editorship of the "Yearly Remembrancer", she inserted in the first number, this now long-famous hymn — without her name. A commentator says of this hymn, "With its sweet counsel to troubled minds it found its way into magazines and other publications, and in devout persons' scrap books; then into religious circles and chapel assemblies; and finally into the hymnals of the church universal."

         Some time after its publication, a lady, struck by its beauty and spiritual value, had it printed in leaflet form for circulation in cities and towns of the kingdom. Miss Elliott, in feeble health, was then in Torquay in Devonshire, under the care of an eminent physician. One day the doctor, who was an earnest Christian man, put one of these leaflets into his patient's hands, saying that it had been helpful to him and felt sure she would like it. The surprise and pleasure was mutual when she recognized her own hymn and he discovered that she was the author. We know not which to admire most, the beauty of the composition, or the lovely modesty of its author, who for so many years forbore to divulge its origin.

         Her father died in 1833, and ten years later her mother and two sisters. Then the home at Brighton was given up, and Charlotte Elliott went to live with her only surviving sister on the Continent. Later they lived for fourteen years at Torquay. After this they went again to Brighton to live, where our author remained until her home-call, Sept 22nd, 1871, at the advanced age of eighty-two.


 (Cesar Malan urges Charlotte Elliott to "come just as you are") 

         In addition to Knapp’s Account of Charlotte’s conversion Bishop H.C.G. Moule of Durham, the Principal of Ridley Hall, Cambridge, on Oct 15, 1897, gave a most interesting account of Miss Elliott, and the origin of this hymn. Dr. Moule, who is related to the family, derived his information from family sources. In an abbreviated form, this is the beautiful story:

         “Ill health still beset her. Besides its general trying influence on the spirit, it often caused her the peculiar pain of a seeming uselessness in her life, while the circle round her was full of unresting serviceableness for God. Such a time of trial marked the year 1834, when she was 45 years old and was living in Westfield Lodge, Brighton ...

         “Her brother, the Rev. H.V. Elliott, had not long before conceived the plan of St. Mary's Hall at Brighton, a school designed to give at nominal cost, a high education to the daughters of clergymen; a noble work which is to this day carried on with admirable ability and large success. In aid to St.Mary's Hall there was to be held a bazaar...

         “Westfield Lodge was all astir; every member of the large circle was occupied morning and night in preparation with the one exception of the ailing sister Charlotte — as full of eager interest as any of them, but physically fit for nothing. The night before the bazaar she was kept wakeful by distressing thoughts of her apparent uselessness; and these thoughts passed by a transition easy to imagine into a spiritual conflict until she questioned the reality of her whole spiritual life, and wondered whether it was anything better after all than an illusion of the emotions, an illusion ready to be sorrowfully dispelled.

         “The next day, the busy day of the bazaar .... the troubles of the night came back upon her with such force that she felt they must be met and conquered by the grace of God. She gathered up in her soul the grand certainties, not of her emotions, but of her salvation: her Lord, His power, His promise. And taking pen and paper from the table she deliberately set down in writing for her own comfort the formulae of her faith ... so in verse she restated to herself the Gospel of pardon, peace and heaven... there, then, always, not at some past moment, but "even now" she was accepted in the Beloved, "Just as I am".

         “As the day wore on, her sister-in-law, Mrs. H.V. Elliott, came in to see her and bring news of the work. She read the hymn and asked (she well might) for a copy. So it first stole out from that quiet room into the world, where for sixty years it has been sowing and reaping, until a multitude which only God can number has been blessed through the message."

(For a modern retelling of this story click here


And for your enjoyment, Miss Charlotte Elliott’s famous verse “Just As I Am, Without One Plea”


Just as I am, without one plea,

But that Thy blood was shed for me,

And that Thou bidst me come to Thee,

O Lamb of God, I come, I come.


Just as I am, and waiting not

To rid my soul of one dark blot,

To Thee whose blood can cleanse each spot,

O Lamb of God, I come, I come.


Just as I am, though tossed about

With many a conflict, many a doubt,

Fightings and fears within, without,

O Lamb of God, I come, I come.


Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind;

Sight, riches, healing of the mind,

Yea, all I need in Thee to find,

O Lamb of God, I come, I come.


Just as I am, Thou wilt receive,

Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve;

Because Thy promise I believe,

O Lamb of God, I come, I come.


Just as I am, Thy love unknown

Hath broken every barrier down;

Now, to be Thine, yea, Thine alone,

O Lamb of God, I come, I come.


Just as I am, of that free love

The breadth, length, depth, and height to prove,

Here for a season, then above,

O Lamb of God, I come, I come!

Would you like to know how to have a personal relationship with Jesus?

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